Princess Cruises Fined $20,000 For Dumping Wastewater Into Alaska’s Glacier Bay

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Just days after the Governor of Alaska filed a motion to roll back regulations regarding cruise ship wastewater discharge, a Princess Cruises ship was caught dumping wastewater into Alaska’s Glacier Bay.

The Environmental Protection Agency levied a $20,000 fine on Princess Cruises for releasing the wastewater, claiming the cruise company violated the Clean Water Act in May 2011 when one of its vessels, the 2,590-passenger Golden Princess, discharged pool water into the notoriously clean environment and ecosystem of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

As many cruise ships have done before it, Princess blamed the release of the wastewater on a software malfunction on the vessel that caused pool dump valves to open. According to the Associated Press, roughly 277 tons (66,000 gallons) of pool water was released into the bay from the Golden Princess.

Princess notified the EPA of the discharge the day after it was released, but that wasn’t enough to stop the line from getting fined. Although the incident took place in 2011, the fine was levied in December and the EPA announced the incident publicly on Tuesday.

Vessels sailing in Alaska must follow the state’s laws regarding wastewater discharge. The state has a permit that does not allow the release of pool and hot tub water in national parks. Princess had no other choice but to sign a consent agreement admitting responsibility for the action and is awaiting a final court order.

This isn’t the first time Princess Cruises has been reprimanded for failing to abide by maritime environmental laws. The cruise line upholds the worst environmental record in Alaskan waters, and has previously been caught discharging illegal levels of wastewater throughout the past few years.

Before the state of Alaska started passing strict environmental laws in 2006, the cruise industry had no qualms about dumping wastewater, raw sewage and other toxic chemicals in the Alaskan waters. But thanks to a new proposal by Gov. Sean Parnell, the laws that prevent such incidents from taking place and which preserve the pristine waters of Alaska may soon go down the drain.

SB29 proposes to roll back provisions from the 2006 cruise initiative that requires cruise companies to meet state quality standards when dumping wastewater. Many argue that this proposal would lead to several environmental issues, but the state’s government is steadfast on decreasing the regulations, which many claim are impossibly high for cruise ships to meet.

Chip Thoma, President of Responsible Cruising in Alaska, is not happy with the bill and argues that the cruise industry requires strict laws to govern it in order to protect the wellbeing of marine wildlife and natural habitats.

“In the 10 years that I’ve been involved in this aspect of it, they have gone from unregulated, dumping raw sewage to very, very controlled, we’re having good results from most of the ships,” said Thoma.

Meanwhile, Princess officials have yet to comment on the matter, and are sticking to the story that the valves malfunctioned. This isn’t the first – nor will it likely be the last – that a cruise line has violated safety protocols. Our cruise lawyers have represented many passengers and crewmembers who have gotten hurt while in the care of cruise officials due to someone’s negligence. It is important that anyone involved in an incident related to poor safety conditions onboard seek legal assistance to ensure their rights are protected.

Photo Credit: destination360.com